Ahead of pot legalization, state leaders discuss impaired driving prevention

BOSTON (WHDH) - With just two weeks until you can legally buy marijuana in Massachusetts, the state commission making recommendations on how to prevent driving under the influence of the drug has met for the first time.

The commission knows they have a tight timeline to report back to state lawmakers.

“The first step is analyzing the current status of the law, deeming if any change is necessary,” said commission chair Shawn Collins.

The 13-member panel is studying a number of issues including ways to test for pot behind the wheel, how police are trained to recognize it, what kind of evidence can be used in court, and coming up with a standard for impairment.

They say that, with legalized pot use, other states have seen a sharp spike in deadly car crashes involving marijuana.

“If we look at what’s happened in other states, the increase in drugged driving and increase in fatal crashes involving drugged driving…you can assume that’s what Massachusetts is going to experience,” said Walpole Police Chief and commission member John Carmichael.

Recreational marijuana was passed by voters in 2016, and lawmakers created the commission when it passed the marijuana law in 2017. They say that, as part of their work, the study may include a public awareness campaign.

“There are many questions surrounding the impact of cannabis and driving,” says commission member Mary Maguire. “The message we want to send is it’s dangerous to drive high, and drugged driving is dangerous, and it’s a killer.”

The commission will present its findings to the legislature by January of 2019.

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